Generally, information from social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat is “discoverable. That means that the information may have to be turned over to an opposing party in a lawsuit if it’s sufficiently related to the case. In Root v. Balfour Construction, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals explains that social media information is subject to the same rules, restrictions and legal protections that apply to more traditional sources of evidence.
The case stemmed from a tragic accident in which Ms. Root’s son was killed when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle outside of a construction project in Cape Coral. Root sued the city, the main contractor on the project and a number of subcontractors for negligence. She claimed that the defendants failed to properly maintain the premises in a condition that was safe for pedestrians. She also asserted a claim for loss of parental consortium, seeking damages for the loss of her child’s love, compassion, companionship, society and comfort. In response, the defendants argued that Root was negligent in allowing the boy to be under the care of his 17-year-old aunt at the time of the accident.
Prior to trial, a magistrate judge recommended that Root be ordered to comply with a discovery request from the defendants seeking copies of postings to her personal Facebook account related to her relationship with her son and other family members before and after the accident, as well as any mental health, stress and substance abuse problems she had before and after the accident and any psychological counseling she underwent after the accident.
On appeal, however, the Second District found that the requested material was overbroad and therefore not subject to discovery. “[T]rial courts around the country have repeatedly determined that social media evidence is discoverable,” the Court explained. As with any other discovery request, however, the Court said “the party seeking discovery must establish that it is (1) relevant to the case’s subject matter, and (2) admissible in court or reasonably calculated to lead to evidence that is admissible in court.”
The Court concluded that the requested discovery wasn’t directly related to Root’s negligence claims, nor did it pertain to the defendants’ affirmative defenses. The Court further said that the Facebook posts sought didn’t appear to be related to Root’s claim for loss of parental consortium. Finally, with respect to information related to Root’s relationship with other family members, the Court said it appeared to be a “fishing expedition.” As a result, the Court quashed the magistrate’s order granting the discovery requests.
Procedure and evidence issues like this often come up in Florida car accident cases and require the consideration of a competent, experienced attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Boca Raton, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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